Contreras salutes fans, helps Cubs win 6th in row, top Bucs

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
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CHICAGO — Willson Contreras drew a standing ovation in perhaps his last home game at Wrigley Field, then keyed an early burst as the Chicago Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-2 Tuesday for their season-high sixth straight win.

Contreras, one of three members left from the 2016 World Series title team, tipped his cap after being cheered at the plate his first time up. He hit a soft single to center field in a three-run first inning off Bryse Wilson (1-6).

Contreras, an All-Star catcher who can become a free agent after this season, has acknowledged this might be his last homestand as a member of the Cubs before the Aug. 2 trade deadline. He saluted the fans with a fist in his last at-bat in the seventh but struck out against reliever Tyler Beede.

Representatives from the Blue Jays and White Sox were in attendance.

Seiya Suzuki, Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner hit consecutive doubles in the first to give Keegan Thompson (8-4) ample run support. Suzuki provided insurance with a homer in the eighth off reliever Will Crowe.

Thompson went a career-high seven innings.

Mychal Givens pitched the ninth to earn his second save. Closer David Robertson wasn’t used for the second consecutive game after earning a win and save Saturday and Sunday at Philadelphia.

The Cubs have (40-57) have their best winning streak since taking seven in a row last Aug. 31-Sept. 6.

The Pirates have lost four of five.

Thompson retired 16 of 18 batters before Hoerner committed a fielding error at shortstop with one out in the seventh, and 6-foot-7 rookie Oneil Cruz followed later with a two-run homer to center field.

Thompson completed the inning without further damage to top his previous high of 6 1/3 innings against the Reds on June 28.

Since the All-Star break, Cubs starters are 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA. Thompson has allowed two earned runs or fewer in five of his last seven starts.

After Hoerner’s double, Wilson retired 14 of the next 17 hitters.

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES?

Cubs manager David Ross acknowledged that Contreras looked distracted during Monday’s game, in which he shed tears later after being asked to reflect on his seven seasons with the team.

“When he came up, he was a happy young man, lot of smiling, fitting in very easily, showing off the absolute cannon he had all the time,” Ross said of Contreras, who made his debut midway through the 2016 title season.

That was Ross’ final season as a player, and he recalled Contreras taking over his specific duties of catching veteran left-hander Jon Lester.

“It was a big deal when he caught Jon,” Ross said. “I know that was something he took pride in and probably learned a ton. I think you learn in the moment as much as I’ve noticed a growth in him in being able to read the game.”

UP NEXT

The Pirates will send RHP Zach Thompson (3-7, 4.64) when they open a four-game series Thursday against the Phillies.

The Cubs will start LHP Justin Steele (4-6, 4.02) in the first game of a four-game series Thursday against the Giants. Steele allowed one run in five innings in a 15-2 win Friday over the Phillies.

Brian Cashman signs 4-year contract to remain Yankees GM

Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO — Brian Cashman has signed a four-year contract to remain the New York Yankees Senior Vice President and General Manager. The announcement was made during the first day of baseball’s Winter Meetings.

Cashman, New York’s GM since 1998, had been working on a handshake agreement since early November, when his five-year contract expired.

The Yankees were swept by four games in the AL Championship Series and haven’t reached the World Series since winning in 2009. It is the franchise’s longest title drought since an 18-year gap between 1978-96.

Cashman’s main goal during the offseason is trying to re-sign AL MVP Aaron Judge.

Judge hit an American League-record 62 homers this season with a .311 batting average and 131 RBIs. He turned down the Yankees’ offer on the eve of opening day of a seven-year contract that would have paid $213.5 million from 2023-29.

While Judge remains on the market, Cashman was able to re-sign Anthony Rizzo on Nov. 15 to a two-year contract worth $40 million after turning down a $16 million player option.

Cashman has been the Yankees general manager since 1998. He has been with the organization since 1986, when he was a 19-year old intern in the scouting department. In his 25 seasons as GM, the Yankees have reached the postseason 21 times, including four World Series championships and six American League titles.